KDS4444 [...] was granted OTRS access as part of the volunteer response team in September 2015. OTRS is the ticketing system across all Wikimedia projects and is used, among other things, by companies and individuals who ask for changes to be made in their articles without violating the conflict of interest guideline. It was alleged at the Administrators' noticeboard (AN) that KDS4444 had used his OTRS access to identify candidates for paid editing work, then email them with offers in the 300 dollar range to make edits on their articles. KDS4444 had his OTRS access revoked on 21 October and was community banned from English Wikipedia on November 17. At the AN discussion some editors wanted to use less drastic remedies on ENWP for an editor who had contributed over 150 articles. Others harshly criticized his actions "actively soliciting for paid work" in a position of trust as "completely unconscionable" and "[in] defiance of community norms".
Last week, media outlets reported a ruling by a German court on the problem of businesses using Wikipedia for marketing purposes. The issue goes beyond the direct management of marketing-related edits by Wikipedians; it involves cross-monitoring and interacting among market competitors themselves on Wikipedia. A company that sells dietary supplements made from frankincense had taken a competitor to court. The recently published judgment by the Higher Regional Court of Munich, in dealing with the German Wikipedia article on frankincense products was handed down in May and is based on European Union competition law.
In the judgment, the court first found that editing Wikipedia is "commercial practice" under the German Unfair Competition Act (UWG). The court held that when a company edits a Wikipedia article, the resulting text falsely creates the impression that the edit has no business-related purpose. By implication, the judges found that the average reader of Wikipedia articles expects to find objective and neutral information. The judgment pointed to Wikipedia's mission to provide neutral accounts of third-party research and reliable sources, with an accurate depiction of disputes where necessary.
This means any Wikipedia article edit made by an editor with a related business background is potentially, per se, pursuing unfair competition under EU competition law.
The company in question had argued it had made its conflict of interest as a market competitor explicit through a comment on the article's talk page. However, the court struck down this argument, saying the average consumer who uses Wikipedia does not read the discussion pages. Significantly, the court did not distinguish between problematic and acceptable contributions. The judgment was explicitly based on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, valid throughout the European Union.
Fifteen years ago: November 2007
There were four issues in November 2007, and we'll be jumping around them a bit. First off, the In the news for 12 November details Wikipedia slowly starting to block paid editing:
Why the idea of paid entries annoys Wikipedia – There has been controversy in the past with people being paid to create entries on Wikipedia for corporate entities; a notable incident involved Microsoft paying a blogger to edit technical articles. This article ponders the question, "Why is it so bad to pay someone to write something on Wikipedia?" For example, MyWikiBiz, a service that offered to write Wikipedia articles for businesses, was stopped in its tracks by Jimbo Wales and the changing conflict of interest policy. Despite its apparent similarities with Wikipedia's own reward board, Wales' opinion is that it is "antithetical", and even though people are probably doing similar editing surreptitiously, it is not behaviour that should be encouraged or sanctioned. However, he admits that "It's all tricky, you know".
... whereas News and notes for the week before ... went in a different direction:
The Foundation announced the acceptance of a $20,000 grant, earmarked for the process of creating copyleft illustrations for use within Wikipedia and elsewhere. The grant was given by entrepreneur Philip Greenspun. The project, coordinated by Brianna Laugher (Pfctdayelise) and Cary Bass (Bastique), will involve a list of needed illustrations, to be compiled on the Meta-Wiki, followed by a period in which users can sign up for an illustration, and upon completion and acceptance, earn the amount offered for that illustration (most will be around US$40 per illustration, with some variation). The grant marks the first foray into paid content creation for the Foundation.
In a 2009 retrospective on that last project, Pfctdayelise would call its outcome – a mere 20 illustrations – "disappointing but not disastrous", and, after describing the various difficulties it had encountered, was left "wondering if the idea of paying volunteers is just way more trouble than it’s worth."
But, if I'm honest, what's really getting to me is realising that the featured content sections are starting to include images and articles I was responsible for around this time – Thespis (opera) and the illustration of trepanning that's illustrating this section. I feel old.